Hyundai gives an otherwise ho-hum segment—mid-size family sedans—some desperately needed flavor with the eye-catching Sonata. The Sonata makes a strong argument with a lineup consisting of a well-equipped base model, a gas-sipping hybrid, and a 290-hp N Line for thrill seekers who are okay with front-wheel drive. A pair of inline-fours round out the rest of the Sonata’s powertrain lineup, with either a 191-hp base engine or a 180-hp turbo for SEL Plus and Limited trims. The Sonata Hybrid uses a gasoline engine with help from an electric motor to power the front wheels for a combined 195 horsepower with an EPA-estimated 51 mpg on the highway. However, even though the Sonata is an impressive bargain when viewed at the intersection of price and equipment, its handling leaves it still a few blocks over from the sharp and exciting Honda Accord.
What’s New for 2023?
The 2023 Hyundai Sonata receives only minor equipment changes and is mostly a carryover model from last year. Sonata SEL and SEL Convenience get the larger 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, while the solar roof offered on the Sonata Hybrid Limited has been replaced with a panoramic sunroof.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Not only is the SEL Plus model the most affordable way to get the upgraded 180-hp turbo-four engine, it’s also the only Sonata that currently comes with 19-inch rims and enhanced all-season tires. It also features a 12.3-inch fully digital gauge cluster, leatherette and microsuede upholstery, back-seat air vents and USB port, and wireless charging. We’d option our preferred Sonata with the Tech package, too. It adds a 12-speaker Bose stereo, a 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a panoramic sunroof, and a semi-autonomous drive mode.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Sonata is not the sharpest handler in its class—we like the Accord and the Nissan Altima better—but it’s still composed and responsive on the road. The ride is a little more unsettled than we’d like and firmer than most cars in this category, but the Sonata is at least reasonably quick with its turbocharged 1.6-liter engine. During our testing, a Sonata with that powertrain made it to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds—an acceptable result in this class. The shifts from the eight-speed automatic are smooth and well-timed. We’d also like to commend Hyundai for continuing to offer a conventional automatic transmission in its family sedan. Much of the class has gone over to droning (but efficient) continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVTs). During our time with the Sonata hybrid, which pairs a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a motor-generator that combine for 192 horses, we appreciated its fuel-saving efforts but disliked how it didn’t smoothly transition between gas and electric power sources. The 290-hp N Line is one of the quickest front-drive cars we’ve tested, and it provides a satisfying amount of driving verve. The N Line nailed 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds, which is only a tenth slower than the Honda Civic Type R’s time.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Sonata has a selection of highly fuel-efficient powertrains, with the hybrid versions owning the highest estimates. The Blue hybrid is rated at up to 50 mpg in the city and 54 on the highway; other hybrid Sonatas are expected to achieve 45 and 51 mpg, respectively. The hybrid we tested on our 75-mph fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, matched its 51-mpg-highway rating. We also tested Sonata models with the turbocharged 1.6-liter (36 mpg) and the turbocharged 2.5-liter (33 mpg). For more information about the Sonata’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Sonata’s interior is attractive and feels like it’s worth more than the sedan’s sticker prices suggest. The back seat is comfortable and spacious, the materials look and feel upscale, and the dashboard layout is simple and ergonomic. The Sonata’s 16 cubic feet of cargo space is about what we expect from mid-size sedans—neither the best nor the worst in its set. Still, we fit seven of our carry-on suitcases inside its trunk, which is plenty of space for a long road trip with the family.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The infotainment system relies on an 8.0-inch center touchscreen. In SEL models with the Convenience package, SEL Plus, and Limited models, there’s also a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Hyundai’s new tech pièce de résistance is the feature it calls Digital Key, which allows owners to use Hyundai’s app and their smartphone to unlock the car using near-field communication (NFC) and operate certain vehicle functions remotely. This would allow drivers to leave the key fob behind if and when their active lifestyles made carrying one inconvenient.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Hyundai’s SmartSense package of driver-assistance features is standard, and includes automatic high-beam assist, adaptive cruise control, and a driver-attention warning that can sense drowsy or distracted driving. The Sonata can even pull in and out of a parking space while you wait for it from outside. However, that feature is reserved for the top-level Limited trim. For more information about the Sonata’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Hyundai’s warranty coverage is legendary, thanks largely to its massive powertrain warranty. The company also offers complimentary scheduled maintenance that bests mainstream rivals such as Toyota.
- Limited warranty covers five years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 10 years or 100,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for three years or 36,000 miles
2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line
front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port and direct fuel injection
152 in3, 2497 cm3
290 hp @ 5800 rpm
311 lb-ft @ 1650 rpm
8-speed dual-clutch automatic
Wheelbase: 111.8 in
Length: 192.9 in
Width: 73.2 in
Height: 56.9 in
Passenger volume: 105 ft3
Trunk volume: 16 ft3
Curb weight (C/D est): 3550 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 5.4 sec
100 mph: 18.0 sec
1/4 mile: 13.7 sec
Top speed: 150 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 27/23/33 mpg
More Features and Specs